Sunday, March 02, 2008

Leads and lags, Babs, leads and lags

Gloom has settled in over Oshkosh-Bloggerland. The evil Stew has stuffed the online edition of his newspaper into our mouths and silenced us. The hope of a new technology has failed us. Just as Neil Young recently remarked that "the time when music could change the world has passed," perhaps we have to acknowledge that the time when the Internet could change the world has passed.


Ron Hardy pronounced the Oshkosh blogs dead yesterday. But I have to say, in the words of recent campus visitor Stanley Crouch, that you must "beware of premature autopsies."

Wynton Marsalis will tell you that the rhythm is the most important part of jazz, and in a larger sense the truth is that timing is all.

Right now we are in a bit of an ebb, but I don't think that the Internet alternative to corporate media is over. Sometimes what we have been doing has been a leader and sometimes a laggard. Sometimes we have been ahead of the curve, sometimes behind. But that is just the way things go. The blogs can rise again.

The present online moment in Oshkosh may belong to the Northwestern, but that is not something that will last indefinitely. (If you want to see how things are really going inside Gannett-land, you should follow this blog.)

In any case, I wouldn't blame (or credit, depending on your POV) Northwestern Executive Editor Stew Rieckman for the slowdown in Oshkosh-Bloggerland. There are a lot of other factors are work, not least the shift of OCAT into Oshkosh Community Media. I mean, Web streaming of public meetings--how cool is that?

I always thought that one of the biggest challenges in creating a blog culture in Oshkosh was simply that this is a conservative community that lacks savvy, including technological savvy. But as the inevitability of the Internet finally laps upon the shores of the Fox Valley, aided and abetted by the Northwestern I might add, then the blog moment may return.

I say "may" not "will" because there are other factors that have to be considered. The key question is whether the act of blogging can have an impact on local government.

Right now we have amazingly unresponsive government bodies in the form of the Common Council and the Board of Education. They are both pretty good at going through the motions of pretending to listen, but in terms of actual results, there is not much to see.

The city manager got the boot, and it appears the school supe plans to light out for some other territory. But the Council and the school board just seem to go on forever, unwilling or unable to deal with the problems before them (although pretty good at cranking up their PR machines).

It's important to remember, though, that change is always in the wind, and there may be some changes yet to come.


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